Exactly two months ago, I left a group of radio stations for whom I'd worked almost six years to become Sales Manager of a small tv network station in the resort area where we live. I've spent 27 years in broadcast radio sales & management and it was not easy for me to make the decision to leave. I had watched radio broadcasting move away from the once-great AM stations of my youth to the edgy and groundbreaking FMs of my late teens and college years. Having grown up in the the Los Angeles radio market, I was used to great disc jockeys, great station jingles and fun promotions. As teenagers, we all listened to the radio via transistors. Most of us started with 45's of our favorite singles, graduating to 33 1/3 LPs when we could afford it. Music was the tie that binds in that every single event in our lives was associated with at least one song or another. To this day, I can pinpoint the year most songs released because I remember what I was doing at the time it was popular on the radio. Baseball was another great radio past time. Vin Scully, still going strong after 60 years as the voice of the Dodgers, was my sports announcer hero. Who didn't listen to their favorite team on the radio?
My father worked in radio for close to fifty years. He started out in Chicago during the Depression, working for an independent rep firm that represented radio stations around the country. His job was to present the features & benefits of each station to the big ad agencies on Michigan Ave. He went on to Canada, working with the pioneering families in Canadian radio, eventually settling in LA to open his own rep firm where I would cut my teeth.
But I digress. I loved radio and all it represented. I worked for Dad as a teenager. After college, I eventually started on the ad agency side of the business as a buyer of radio, television and print. Going into media sales was a natural step and I chose radio probably because of all it represented to me at the time. I enjoyed many years of great times with great people working for great and not-so-great stations. Little by little, the business changed and, as with so much of what has occurred in American business over the last 10-15 years, consolidation took over. As it did, the individuals were bought out and individualism was weeded out. Economies of scale became the norm and all the joy and originality went too. I got out for a few years, thinking I'd never go back as it was no longer the same.
I eventually needed to go back to work and radio was what I knew best. So back I went...a fifty year old woman, no less! I was hired by a three station cluster and hit the streets with all good intentions. The company for whom I worked was huge, fifth largest in the US at the time of my hiring; third largest now. Unfortunately, they know nothing about radio. This company has decimated the existing stations they own, all in the name of those economies of scale. Voice tracking is the norm, live shows the exception. Sales departments do not try to help or please their clients, there's no money in that. The CEO took the group public and ran the price of the stock down to pennies. This company is now firing middle managers, long time air talent, and anyone who isn't absolutely positively necessary to the day-to-day business. It's a bloodbath out there and I mourn the losses. But, boy, I did I get out just in time.